Consecrated Courage: Remembering Brother Joe Nichols

“For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:13).

On March 12, 2022, our Lord and Savior called one of His servants home to heaven. That servant was Joe Nichols. A devoted husband to Leola (March 17th would have been their 57th anniversary).  A strong Dad, Papaw, and Great-Granddaddy. A servant in Corydon Baptist Church and the Southeast Indiana region for many decades. To say Joe had a servant’s heart is to vastly understate it. 

For many years, Joe was the only Deacon in Corydon Baptist Church. He served alongside the former Pastor, Tommy Hullette, during some very difficult years for the church. He and Tommy leaned hard upon Christ and one another to sustain a genuine gospel ministry in the face of much opposition. 

By the time I arrived as the Preaching Pastor in January 2012, Brother Joe was the Chairman of a more robust deacon ministry. But Joe’s love and support for me was just as tenacious. Joe didn’t always agree with every decision I made. He did not shy away from telling me so, at least a few times over the last 10 years, and I appreciated all the many times we agreed, and the few times we didn’t. But so long as I was faithfully and rightly dividing the Word of God, and was seeking to shepherd and lead the flock of God in a way that honored Christ, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me. He was a true friend (Prov. 18:24).

Joe was on the Search Committee that called me to Corydon Baptist Church. I remember him asking me, “What is your leadership style?” I barked, “Aggressive.” Joe was a former Army Sergeant, and I think I saw a twinkle in his eye upon hearing my straight-forward answer.  [Many will be glad to know, however, that God’s sanctifying grace has softened me some over the years. Both physical and spiritual age have made me less aggressive, I think, although I still believe that Jesus and His Church deserve our full energy, devotion, intensity, trust and effort. Or, maybe God is just teaching me which hills to die on, and which to leave to the younger warriors. But I digress.]  

Perhaps my fondest memory of Joe was during the first Members’ Meeting after I became Pastor. I was not leading the meeting. Rather, I had another elder lead it so I could just listen and learn how these meetings were conducted. Joe stood up and said, “This church is not giving anything to missions and that ain’t right!” Typical Joe. Direct. Biblical. Right on target.  

His courage that day led the church to begin giving a small percentage of the tithes and offerings received to missions. And at the time, the church really couldn’t even pay me much. But it was a sacrifice I was joyful to see the church body make. God has given me a heart for missions, especially in areas where Christians are persecuted. So, I was happy to find a kindred spirit already among the church family. What God did through one man’s consecrated courage that day is nothing short of astonishing.

For the last several years, our church family has been blessed of God to be able to give $40,000 + to missions and missionaries each year. Our church is in the top 25 in our denomination in the state of Indiana for Cooperative Program giving (as of 2021). We have a ministry to train pastors (and women) in a country that is always in the top 5 worst countries for persecution against Christians. We directly support missions in Cameroon, Indonesia, Philippines, Nicaragua, Kenya, Louisville, and right here at home. One of our member families just moved to Colorado to plant a church in Las Animas, a town that is shrouded in drug abuse, depression and darkness. Our membership has never exceeded 130 in the decade of my pastorate.  But our God is BIG. It is to His glory alone!

I do not often publish the ways in which God is using this church body in missions around the world. I just do not want even an ounce of glory or credit to go to anyone other than the Lord God Almighty who sent His Son to be the Savior of the World (John 4:42). My boasting is in the Lord (1 Cor 1:31). He has done and is doing great things among us for the sake of Jesus’ name. It’s all of grace! 

But, as I mourn the loss of Brother Joe, whose absence will be deeply felt in our church for a long time, and as I celebrate Joe’s legacy of faithful service to Christ, I do want to encourage us all to never underestimate what God can and will do through one consecrated, courageous Christian. The woman at the well took a faith gulp of Living Water some 2000 years ago, and a village came to Christ (John 4). 

Joe stood up at a small church meeting 10 years ago, and challenged us to step out in faith. For the love of God and for the sake of lost souls near and far. For the glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And look what God did! Look at what God is doing! Anticipate what God will do! And ask the Lord to raise up more consecrated, courageous Christians among us, and among our sister churches. 

“I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor” (John 4:38).

by Keith McWhorter